Leica M Monochrom review: Hands-on

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The Leica M Monochrom is the world's first black and white-only digital camera

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The Leica M Monochrom is the world's first digital camera designed exclusively for full-frame black and white photography and uses Leica M lenses

A digital camera that only shoots black and white pictures? Yeah, you heard. The idea behind the Leica M Monochrom may sound ludicrous to some, especially given the £6,120 price tag, but Leica is confident that there's a market for this maverick camera.

Announced alongside the (relatively) affordable Leica V-Lux 40 compact, the X Series Leica X2 and the eye-wateringly pricey Leica M9-P Edition Hermes (just 18,000 quid), the Monochrom is like nothing we've seen before.

While existing digital cameras may include a monochrome filter for images taken on a colour RGB sensor, the Monochrom sports a newly-designed 18 million pixel CCD sensor that doesn't 'see' colours, in order to capture light in its purest form.

Black and white-only photography is still extremely popular among the film fraternity, as its these guys that Leica sees as being the core audience for the Monochrom.

Leica M Monochrom: Build

The camera body sports the brand's familiar retro styling, and at 139 x 37 x 80mm it's a little on the chunky side. Tipping the scales at 600g, it's not exactly light either, but the advantage of these less-than-svelte stats is the tank-like build quality.

We saw the camera demoed with the new high-performance Leica APO-Summicron-M 50mm f/2 ASPH lens (yours for 5,400 notes) and as the Monochrom uses the Leica M lens system,you'll be able to use existing lenses from the range. Seeing as the company has been producing them since 1954, you should find quite a few to choose from.

Leica M Monochrom: Screen

The 2.5-inch colour TFT LCD is a little on the small side for our liking, but the 230,000 pixel resolution is certainly sharp enough to review shots successfully and navigate around the menu.

Leica M Monochrom: Battery

The Monochrom sports a rechargable lithium-ion battery with a 1900mAh capacity. Obvisouly we couldn't test out the battery during our limited time with the camera but it's something we'll be looking at in our full review.

Leica M Monochrom: Picture quality

We were shown some images taken on the Monochrom by a pro film photographer and we were mightily impressed with the results. we also reeled of a few snaps, too, and while we only see these dispayed on the tiny LCD screen on the back of the camera, the quality was excellent, and much more refined than what we'd expect from a b/w filter on a standard digital camera.

Leica M Monochrom: Verdict

The Leica M Monochrom is somewhat unsual, as many will baulk at the idea of paying such a large chunk of change for a camera that can't even take colour snaps. However, if you've got the cash to spend, you're unlikely to be disappointed. Do we need the Monochrom? Possibly not. Do we want it? Of course we do.

Leica M Monochrom availability: July 2012

Leica M Monochrom price: £6,120 (body only)